How James Bond star considered himself ‘Scottish Schwarzenegger’

Sean Connery is widely accepted to have been one of the greatest James Bond actors of all time. He first appeared as British spy 007 in ‘Dr No’ – one of seven times he took on the role. But long before his acting days, Sean was a working class boy growing up in the Edinburgh tenement of Fountainbridge, Scotland. He got his first job at nine years old to support his family before taking on varying forms of employment – including one where he was cruelly judged. Later, after being discharged from the Royal Navy, he desperately chased work that could get him out of his financial situation. During one stint, he even considered bodybuilding as a way to escape and entered the prestigious Mr Universe competition. In rediscovered anecdotes from Sean’s youth, reveal how the star hoped he could become as renowned as muscle man Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Sean Connery first realised the thrill of performing when he landed his first role in a theatre production of ‘South Pacific’ in 1953.

Despite being told he needed to “tone down” his Scottish accent, the star would go onto great success. 

Now he is synonymous with the role of James Bond after he became the first actor to bring the charming ‘Shaken-not-stirred’ spy to life. 

Current 007, Daniel Craig will appear for a final time in ‘No Time To Die’ this November – after the release date was pushed back due to coronavirus concerns. 

But prior to Sean’s time in the limelight, he ventured down other career paths including becoming a life model for budding artists and a brief dalliance in bodybuilding. 

The future star was described as having a great build from a young age in Michael Feeney Callan’s 1983 biography ‘Sean Connery: The Untouchable Hero’.

By the age of 18, he was already 6ft 2in with “beefy shoulders” – three years later, as he continued to work out he became “socially hyperactive and aggressively girl-hungry”.

Even Sean admitted that he turned to bodybuilding in a bid to “look good and get the girls” and enrolled in Dunedin Amateur Weightlifting Club.

He said: “I don’t know when I first envisioned myself as a sort of muscle-boy, a Scottish Arnold Schwarzenegger, but it must have been in my mid teens. 

“Teenagers are very conscious of their bodies anyway, and the rugged jobs I’d held helped build up those muscles.”

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It was fellow bodybuilder Jimmy Laurie who first suggested to Sean that he might have a chance of becoming professional.

While the concept seemed “too preposterous” to the future actor at first, he soon came around to the idea.

Biographer Mr Callan wrote: “Connery – Laurie said – was ripe for a try. In his junior category he would romp home. 

“The title would bring acclaim to the Dunedin Club and the ground-plan of a new, more meaningful career to Connery.

Under the instruction of his muscly mentor, Sean moved down to London to prepare for the Mr Universe competition – awaiting him was a mixture of success and “disillusionment”.


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The Mr Universe Competition was held in Scala Theatre in West London and while Sean’s teacher failed to place, fortune favoured the future Bond star.

Despite being awarded third place in the junior category – winning bronze medal – he felt the victory was hollow.

Sean reflected: “I did no good at all. The Americans always won those things. They were much bigger and everybody was impressed by the size of them.

“It was quite a disillusionment for me to meet them, because as the club I went to… we were all very healthy and strength conscious, and we used to run and swim and do many other things. 

“But all the American and the London fellas seemed to be solely intent on acquiring inches and bulk. 

“I was absolutely shattered to discover that somebody wouldn’t run for a bus because he might lose some of his bulk. 

“Just to be a bulky physique would be boring to me. Not to run, not to play football, not to swim – cul-de-sac.”

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